Good teachers are usually good learners, and this year's HHS Teacher of the Year, Jessica de Araujo, is no exception.
Ms. Jorge, as she is known to students in her Spanish classes, has learned a lot about herself since arriving at Hendersonville High in 2005.
“When I first started, I didn’t really think I was tough enough to be patient with students and focus on the important things in my classroom,” recalled Jorge, a petite brunette who, at 5-feet-2, is shorter than most of her students.
“But the longer I’ve been teaching the more I realize that it’s really about the relationship with students,” she said. “If I can’t establish that and be authentic with them and be who I am in front of them, then they will see that quickly.”
Jorge is no 8-to-3 teacher. She is head of the Foreign Language Department and co-chair of the AP Committee. She sponsors the Spanish Club, the Spanish National Honors Society, the HHS Climate Change Committee, and the Young Women’s Study Group. It is common to see her in the halls with her 5-year-old son and 2-year old daughter while the janitors are mopping the floors.
“She’s very dedicated,” remarked Debbie Sheets, coordinator of HHS’s STARS counseling program. “Not only is she a good teacher, but the students feel comfortable going to her to talk about their problems.”
Science teacher Phil Colling added, “She genuinely loves this place and the kids.”
The HHS faculty chose Jorge for the honor: a clear sign she has the respect of her peers.
“She represents the school well and goes the extra mile,” said Principal Bob Cotter. “The faculty made a great decision.”
The honor isn’t lost on students, either.
“She is always there for all of her students, and I am incredibly thankful I have her as a teacher and as a role model,” said junior Paula Alvarez.
Jorge is humbled by the attention. She said she could happily be a full-time student because she enjoys being at school that much.
“I guess you could call me a nerd,” she quipped.
Article by Kevin Maravilla
Summer Reading 2017-18*
HHS English Dept.
English I (All Levels): Lord of the Flies by William Golding
World Studies: Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Additional summer assignments will be given at the parent meeting in early May. See Mrs. Watts or Mrs. Elmore with questions.
English II (Honors and Standard): The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Advanced Honors English II: How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins. Please see Mr. Gilbert for additional summer assignments.
English III (Standard): In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
English III (Honors): In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and How to Read Literature like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
AP English Language: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Please see Mrs. Watts for additional summer assignments.
English IV (Honors): The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
English IV (Standard): The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
AP English Literature: Please see Mrs. Sims for summer assignments.
*Students should complete all reading and assignments by the first day of their English classes. World Studies will have additional assignments due at Golden Opportunity. No exceptions!
Senior Timeline - 2017
April 21 Prom 8:00 pm -12 am @ HHS
May 3 Senior Meeting – 9:25 am Auditorium
May 7 National Honor Society Graduation/Induction
May 8 Black and Gold Day – Spring Football Game
May 9 Wear Gold in Honor of our Seniors
Fill out Memory Sheets during Lunch
May 10 Senior Breakfast Cafeteria @ 7:15
Pick up Yearbooks during Lunch
Wear College Shirt Day
May 11 Awards Day @ 8:30 in Gym – Parents are Welcome
May 12 Seniors watch Senior Video in Auditorium 8:00
Senior Assembly @ 8:15 in Gym-seniors dress up
Senior Parents may watch video immediately following
Senior Assembly in the Auditorium
Senior Picnic @ Rockland Park approximately 11:00
May 14 Senior Baccalaureate @ 2:00 First Baptist Church
Seniors arrive at 1:30 – wear cap and gown
May 15 Senior Exams 1st and 2nd Blocks
May 16 Senior Exams 3rd and 4th Blocks
May 19 Graduation Practice 1:00 pm on Track
Graduates report to the Gym 5:00 pm
Graduation begins at 6:00 pm after graduation report
to cafeteria to pick up diploma.
SENIORS WHO ARE PLANNING TO ATTEND COLLEGE MUST COMPLETE A FINAL TRANSCRIPT REQUEST FORM SO THAT YOUR FINAL GRADES MAY BE SENT TO YOUR COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY. THE FORMS ARE IN THE COUNSELING OFFICE AND THERE IS A $3.00 CHARGE TO HAVE IT SENT. FINAL TRANSCRIPTS ARE REQUIRED BY COLLEGES AND CANNOT BE SENT UNTIL YOU MAKE THE REQUEST.
Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a three-part series on teen suicide. Tomorrow’s story will explore resources to help young people struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.
When Kate (a pseudonym) was 4, she was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). By seventh grade, she started cutting herself after she found her friend was doing it to cope with her problems. It sounded like a solution.
The next year, in eighth grade, Kate tried to end her life.
“I didn’t know why I was so depressed,” the Hendersonville High student told The Ville News on condition of anonymity. “I had lived a blessed life.”
Suicidal thoughts have many triggers including substance abuse, trauma and bullying, but two big ones are depression and anxiety. In 2015, about 3 million young people ages 12 to 17 had had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that about 30 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys – 6.3 million teens - have had an anxiety disorder.
“Students are under a lot of pressure,” said Debbie Sheets, coordinator of HHS’s STARS (Students Taking a Right Stand) counseling program, who cites a sharp rise in standardized testing, a saturation of social media and a relentless push to succeed from some parents as major reasons so many young people are having problems.
Justin Sweatman-Weaver, director of the Sumner County Drug Coalition and regional leader of the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, said “pressure on teens is higher than it has ever been” and comes at a crucial time in their development, when they have a natural chemical imbalance in the brain that makes them vulnerable.
“They are at a higher risk because their brains are not fully developed,” he said. “They are more impulsive and have a stronger reaction to negative things.”
Many teen suicides also are linked to substance abuse, though not always by the teen. Often, it is a parent or sibling struggling with the addiction.
Stephen Bargatze, an inspirational speaker and entertainer, attempted suicide as a young man after living with an alcoholic father. Bargatze said his father suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the Korean War and became reclusive, chronically drunk and verbally abusive.
“Alcoholism affected everyone in my family,” said Bargatze, who shares his experience as part of a magic act he performs in schools.
Statistically, people who abuse alcohol and/or drugs attempt to kill themselves nearly six times as frequently as people who don’t have a substance addiction, according to a 2014 report in Psychology Today.
One HHS senior who asked to remain anonymous said her father took his life after a long history of drug and alcohol abuse. “He couldn’t get help,” she said, “and he was tired of hurting his friends and family.”
A cycle of drugs, alcohol and abusive relationships led Holly, a 2008 HHS graduate, to attempt suicide about five years ago.
“I struggled a lot with anxiety and depression in high school,” Holly said. “I always felt like I wasn’t good enough… I didn’t really fit in with anybody.”
After high school, she moved in with a man who became verbally abusive. “I was like, ‘Well, these are the same things that I think about myself,’ so it was nothing new to me. It was just reassuring all these feelings that I already had about myself,” she recalled.
Then the relationship turned physically abusive, she said, and she began to fear for her life. “This man had guns in the house, drugs, and I fell into that as well, just trying to numb my pain.”
In 2011 she finally gathered the courage to leave him. She had two hours to put as many of her belongings as she could into the back of her car and flee. She said he followed her, stalked her, and harassed her.
After a night of drinking with friends, Holly decided to take her own life. She drove around town, contemplating how to do it. She decided to crash her car into a telephone pole. “I thought it was what I wanted.”
Bullying is another leading cause among young people, especially those in the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and others) community. The CDC reports that the rate of suicide attempts is four times greater for LGB youth and two times greater for questioning youth than that of straight youth.
Many say social media has increased the amount and degree of bullying. An HHS freshmen observed, “In the click of a button, anyone can say whatever they want to on anyone’s profile. It might be positive, but sadly there are cases where it is used to post hateful, rude, embarrassing, personal or just mean things about that person.”
Kate, the HHS student who began cutting herself and then tried to take her life, said she felt guilty for feeling the way she did because her life had been “blessed” compared to others she knew, though she describes a childhood marred by a messy divorce and a verbally abusive father.
She received treatment and medication, but the medicine didn’t always help; the darkness would return.
“I was so negative for so long that nobody wanted to be my friend,” she said.
This year has been better for Kate, but she acknowledges, “There are still tough days, bad days.” A good student, she plans to go to college to study psychology.
“You have to find hope in something,” she said. “School, faith, and friends – those are the things I stay focused on.”
Story by Anna Burke, Skye Cadorette, Grace Phillips and Sarah Whitlow
Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a three-part series on teen suicide. Tomorrow’s story will examine causes of suicide among young people.
The events of July 11, 2011, replay in Holly’s mind like a bad dream from which she can never fully wake.
“I was hanging out with some old friends who definitely weren’t into the right things,” the Hendersonville High graduate told The Ville News recently. “Everyone that I was with was drinking, and I had in my mind exactly what I was going to do.”
Like so many young people, Holly had struggled with anxiety and depression. She had battled drug and alcohol abuse and had been through abusive relationships.
She felt desperate and alone, and it all came crashing down on her that July night when she was 21 years old.
“So I’m driving down New Hope Road, past Beech, and I was ready. I drove my car directly into a telephone pole, splitting it in half,” Holly remembered, her voice hushed and her words slow and deliberate, as though reliving the episode yet again.
When she regained consciousness, she was trapped and gasping for breath because of the airbags pressed against her. She had to kick the door open to escape the wreckage, and as she broke free, she had a moment of clarity.
“At that moment, everything became so clear what was really important in life,” she recalled.
Holly’s story is not as unusual as many might think. Statistics by the suicide prevention group The Jason Foundation and by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest a staggering problem facing young people:
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youngsters 10 to 14 and the second for young people 15 to 34.
More teenagers and young adults die from suicide each year than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined.
Each day in the U.S., there are an average of over 5,240 suicide attempts by young people grades 7-12.
“Over the years we’ve done surveys, and over 20 percent of our students say they have thought about it but not acted upon it,” said Debbie Sheets, coordinator of HHS’ STARS (Students Taking a Right Stand) counseling program.
The numbers for young people appear to be part of an overall rise in suicide, which has surged to the highest level in the U.S. in nearly 30 years with increases in every age group except older adults. In all, 42,773 people died from suicide in 2014, compared with 29,199 in 1999, according to a study released last month by the National Center for Health Statistics.
Behind the statistics are teens like one HHS junior who spoke to The Ville News on condition of anonymity. She is among more than a dozen people interviewed for this series who have personal experience with suicide as a counselor, a family member or friend, or as a survivor.
“I felt so much hate for people and I felt that I was hated by everyone to the point where I just wanted to end it all,” she said. “I attempted suicide three times. Each time I told my mom I wanted to kill myself, she thought it was a joke. She said that I didn’t have real problems and that the one with real problems was her.”
Another HHS student, a senior, had a harrowing encounter on her birthday.
“I had just celebrated my 13th birthday. I was feeling really excited. I was ready to go to bed, ready to go to school the next day, and … um … I hear a blood-curdling scream come from my mom’s room. She had just gotten a call that my dad had committed suicide about an hour before.”
Even though this was five years ago, that night is never far from her thoughts.
“It’s been a really hard five years, to not have my dad around for prom and upcoming graduation and in the future my wedding, college graduation, all of that,” she said. “It’s just been a long journey of healing and grief and heartbrokenness.”
Statistically, males take their own lives at nearly four times the rate of females and represent 78 percent of all suicides, according to the CDC. However, females are more likely than males to have suicidal thoughts.
Firearms are the most commonly used method for men (57 percent) and poisoning the most common method for females (35 percent), the agency reports.
For Holly, surviving the car crash opened her eyes to the people who really cared about her, and she discovered it wasn’t her party friends. She underwent treatment and found comfort that she wasn’t as alone as she thought.
“I’m not crazy. People who struggle with this are not crazy. So many people have these thoughts,” she said.
And while Holly acknowledges still having bouts of depression, she finds peace in sharing her story.
“I feel that maybe this was the direction that my life was supposed to be in,” she said. “I got a second chance, and I think whenever you realize life is really precious and you only get one of them, then you really start to change the way you do things and the way you live each day.”
Story by Jensen Tabb, Anna Burke, Ashley Baez, Cleo Graham, Lindsey Glowacki and Kolby Hayes